Books by Philippe Taquet

Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Lively, vivid, bracingly enthusiastic—these tales of paleontological field days and discoveries from Taquet, director of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, give a sharp taste of what spurred him to say yes to the question: "Do you take paleontology as your spouse and promise to serve her faithfully for the rest of your days?" Taquet is a paleontologist's paleontologist: he combs the archives of the Earth, liberates fossils, and reconstructs the creatures using intellectual sweat and an open mind, guided by intuition, experience, flair, and luck. Here he acts as an elder statesman—avuncular, discriminating, with lots of old chestnuts to share—passing on some of the fruits of his life's passion. Seven of the chapters involve accounts of expeditions he participated in. Still wet behind his Sorbonne-trained ears, he went to Niger and the spectacular, newly discovered dinosaur boneyard at Gadoufaoua; he chased dinosaur eggs in Mongolia; he followed on the heels of J.-H. Hoffet in pursuit of the Laotian sacred buffalo (he had to make propitiatory offerings to the guardian genies and was given an armed escort). Just as riveting as these accounts are his explanations of the process of deciphering and restoring bones, the naming of new species and genera, speculations on evolutionary lines. His tour of paleoichnology (the study of dinosaur footprints) would make Sherlock Holmes proud, as Taquet reveals scads of details that remain hidden to the untutored eye. And, in the all-too-rare spirit of collegiality and attribution, he liberally sprinkles the book with intelligent summaries of the work and theories of other paleontologists: Jack Horner, John Ostrom, Henry Fairfield Osborn, Robert Bakker, and an army of others. Taquet is a good storyteller, his lessons as easy to consume as shucked oysters, and the thrill he finds in his work is catching. (illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >